Latino voice reaches beyond SHU walls

From the July-August 2012 issue of News & Letters:

Latino voice reaches beyond SHU walls

Pelican Bay, Calif.—I have been a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) for well over 20 years. As is the case with so many, contact with the outside world is rare. I hope my voice brings an awareness to those who may care to listen.

The struggle for justice and equality carries a heavy price to pay for one’s efforts to maintain integrity and dignity in the fight against inhumane treatment. I have been a casualty of this battle. I spent more than 20 years of my life condemned and isolated to SHU confinement (“The Hole”) with virtually no contact with other prisoners or the outside world.

Unfortunately, this is the reality of the many Latin/ Hispanic people who comprise over 52% of those confined to SHU isolation—more than any other racial group in California. We continue to struggle against racist attacks and abuse by prison officials who subject us to torturous conditions and treatment as a means to enslave us and take what remains of our humanity. With very little resources and contact, most can no longer tolerate the psychological tortures imposed upon us. This results in prisoners becoming jailhouse informants to regain lost privileges at the expense of their own people. While some lose their sense of existence, many continue to struggle to maintain their sanity and more—myself included.

I have no family, nor anyone left to comfort my thoughts or to bring serenity to my fears. It is only the kindred spirit of the wise before me who occupy my heart and the hearts of those still seeking justice!

There is a saying in Latin: nulli desperandum, quamdiu spirat which means “not one is to be despaired of so long as he breathes,” i.e., “while there is life, there is hope.” It is from this concept that I draw strength.

My desire to extend my voice beyond these walls stems from the fact that, while society conceives of itself as an indivisible unit, it is divided by a dualism which perhaps originated when man ceased to be an animal, and invented himself, his consciousness and his ethics. Sometimes society’s ends, disguised as moral precepts, coincide with the desires and needs of those who comprise it. But sometimes they deny the aspirations of important minorities or classes. Often they deny man’s profoundest liberties and the very existence of humanity and what is just and fair.

Therefore, my people resemble a neurotic for whom moral principles and abstract ideas have no practical function. We have all, at one time or another, rebelled against the very rules that we have been conditioned to uphold—be it our parents’, society’s, whatever. But the cry of the less fortunate is not the cry of animals. Rather, it is a call to defend the moral right to be treated as a human being and not like some caged beast.

This is my voice of Latin descent which is the voice of many whose cry for justice is the hope that society looks beyond its fear and hatred and opens its mind to the true reality of institutional and systematic injustice and enslavement of minorities and those too poor to fend for themselves.

In the name of justice,

J.G.

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